It was mini-camp. Three practices held by the Green Bay Packers in early June that take place in shorts. There isn’t exactly a ton that we should be trying to glean from it. However, that doesn’t mean that whatever takes place is meaningless either; we just need to remember to take it with a grain of salt.
While all eyes were locked in on Jordan Love — and understandably so — another name on the offensive side of the ball that kept being mentioned over the course of the three days was Juwann Winfree, a third-year wide receiver from Colorado.
As noted by Matt Schneidman of The Athletic, during a two-minute, quarterback Kurt Benkert connected with Winfree for a 50-yard touchdown. Winfree would also catch a 30-yard touchdown pass from Love on a deep corner route. Schneidman would go on to say that Winfree “stood out on offense,” while ESPN’s Rob Demovsky mentioned that he “found ways to get open often.”
These are just a few examples, but the big plays coupled with the comments from Schneidman and Demovsky help illustrate Winfree’s effectiveness at mini-camp.
Winfree was selected in the sixth round by the Denver Broncos in the 2019 draft and appeared in 15 games over two seasons with the Buffalo after transferring from Maryland. During that span, he hauled in 649 yards at 13.6 yards per catch with four touchdowns. He saw 10 offensive snaps with the Broncos in 2019 and spent most of the 2020 season on the Green Bay Packers practice squad, but was on the field for four offensive plays, according to PFF ($$). He has no career regular-season targets.
After the 2019 draft, Travis Wakeman of Broncos Wire summed up well what Winfree can add to an NFL offense:
"“Juwann Winfree doesn’t have flashy college stats or a blazing time in the 40-yard dash, but he is the kind of player who will get the job done on the field in more ways than one. Winfree can make tough, contested catches and he is a technical route runner. Perhaps above all is his willingness and ability to be a blocker in the running game.”"
Now, as I said, take this all with a grain of salt. It doesn’t mean that Winfree is going to make the final 53-man roster, but I will be watching him much more closely once training camp and the preseason begins. Depending on how many receivers the Green Bay Packers keep on the roster, there is at least one roster spot and likely two up for grabs, with Davante Adams, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, Allen Lazard, and Amari Rodgers accounting for four spots.
Competing with Winfree is Devin Funchess, who certainly looks the part but also has to shake off the rust after not playing for two seasons and adjust to a new offense. Equanimeous St. Brown is entering a crucial year in his development. As well as Malik Taylor, who saw plenty of reps on special teams this past week, and Reggie Begelton. Other receivers on the roster currently include Chris Blair, DeAndre Thompkins, and Bailey Gaither.
In addition to making plays as a receiver, it’s also going to be important that Winfree do the same on special teams. Given that the first four receiver spots are accounted for, plus how involved the running backs and tight ends are in the passing game, there isn’t going to be many opportunities for Winfree on offense if he makes the final-53. For the back end of the roster players, they must contribute and make plays on special teams–that’s where they’re going to see most of their playing time.
It was three practices in early June, and they took place in shorts. But among the rest of his teammates, Juwann Winfree stood out. So at a minimum, we should at least start paying more attention to him as the rest of OTAs unfold and once training camp and the preseason begins.